Legal muddle over ownership of cat who stayed behind when house was sold

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Violet, a shy cat, decided to stay behind when her owner, Lisa Szefel, moved home (Hillsboro to the Cedar Mill area, Oregon, USA). Violet hid in her favourite hiding spot, a crawl space on the third floor. She stayed there during the day but sneak out at night to eat, drink and go to the toilet. It appears that the food, water and cat litter were put out by the new home owners who refused to allow Szefel to be in the house alone which would have given Violet the confidence to emerge.

This went on for 16 days. In a rather silly intervention the realtor – the person involved in the sale and purchase of the home – said that the new home owner had become the cat’s new owner.

Sorry but you were very wrong to suggest that. Although there have been some crazy stories of people acquiring ownership by informal means, in this case ownership of Violet had not changed hands. There was nothing legal to demonstrate that ownership has passed from one person to another.

In a slightly over-the-top development Szefel talked to a lawyer to check who owned Violet! But as mentioned there had been no intention to release ownership to the new home owner. In fact, Szefel returned to her former home every day for a week to try and entice her cat out. This failed because she had to go there in the afternoon when the new owners were there and it was their presence which frightened Violet. In the end Szefel was refused entry into her former home.

Szefel even thought about suing the couple who own her former home and she went to the police for help. The new owners of Szefel’s former home want to be anonymous so we don’t have their names. They said that they were feeding Violet but Szefel said this was not true. They asked Szefel to show restraint and patience and it paid off. They said:

“This has become invasive, The cat owners have to be patient, they’re going to get their cat back, they just have to wait”.

The saga ended well. After 16 days hiding in the crawl space she emerged and was taken to a local cat shelter. We are not sure who did this. The obvious persons are the new owners of home where Violet was hiding.

Comment: Without wishing to be hurtful I’d say that Szefel was careless in not making sure her cat came with her on the day of the move. The fault must lie with her.

3 thoughts on “Legal muddle over ownership of cat who stayed behind when house was sold”

  1. What is worse is when owners intentionally leave their cat. This happened recently on my friend Kathryn’s cul-de-sac, when her former neighbors refused to take their four-year old cat, Gato. Kathryn lured the cat onto her patio and it took both of us to get her into a carrier. When temperatures reached 40 Celsius, Gato could no longer be kept in the patio, and Kathryn’s current cat would not tolerate the newcomer. Fortunately, the local no-kill shelter was willing to take her (for a $50 fee), and renamed her Gaia. I’ll attach a photo from their website. If anyone is interested in adopting her, here is the link:

  2. Now this is my opinion,Ms.Szefel should have put Violet in a room as she was packing and moving items out of the home and then when done get Violet and put her in a carrier to go to her new home,when in the past I have moved that is wot I did.


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